ISSUE – NO. 402

20 April 2018

The inaugural issue of “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published in April 1988 – over a year before the first edition of the ABC TV Media Watch program went to air. Between November 1997 and October 2015 “Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch” was published as part of The Sydney Institute Quarterly. In March 2009 Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog blog commenced publication.

* * * *

  • Stop Press: Leigh Sales & James Comey; Tom Ballard’s Tonightly
  • Michelle Guthrie on the Jon Stephens Case; Mad As Hell supports Aunty (Madly)
  • Can You Bear It? Bonge Bangs On About Racism; The Walkley Fund for Journalism Dinner – Has Speakers, Needs Audience; Quelle Surprise! The Australia Institute Enrols Academics In Support of Tax Increases; Tony Walker Verbals Robert Menzies
  • The Cliché in the Room: An Elephant’s Perspective – Benjamin Law’s Conversation
  • Outside Outsiders: Ross Cameron’s Serial Rant; Jaynie Seal Follows MWD Recommendation by Taking the Late Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Imagination to Bed
  • History Corner: How John Edwards’ book Disproves John Edwards’ Claim that, unlike John Curtin, Robert Menzies Favoured Surrender to the Japanese
  • Correspondence: Sharon Rainsbury of the Magistrates’ Court Victoria Helps out on Louise Milligan and Belinda Wallington 





As far as MWD can recall, the last time that 7.30 devoted an entire program to a single subject was Louise Milligan’s 2016 hatchet job on Cardinal George Pell.

Last night it was oh-so-different with presenter Leigh Sales’ oh-so-soft interview with former FBI director James Comey in Washington DC. Mr Comey rocked up to flog his self-justifying book A Higher Loyalty.

MWD just loved it when Ms Sales referred to James Comey, when FBI director, bringing about a situation whereby a secret document was “shared” with a journalist. Sound better than the FBI director “leaking” a document through a proxy to the New York Times, don’t you think?

Then there was this touching moment – in which Ms Sales thought it advisable to get advice from a former FBI director about the future of the Australian-American Alliance:

Leigh Sales: Australia’s one of the United States’ closest allies and Australian citizens are regularly told by their political leaders and also when senior American officials come to visit, say Senator John McCain came through, we’re told that we should feel confident to rely on the alliance with the United States because it’s bigger than any one person – it’s bigger than Donald Trump – and that there is a history and a structure and a scaffolding around it if you like. In your judgement, can Australia continue to view the US as a reliable, trustworthy and credible partner while Donald Trump is president?

James Comey: Yes and just because I know the extent and culture of the relationship between the two countries, I know it through the national security lens and law enforcement lens. It would be hard to screw up the relationship between the US and Australia and no one president has enough time to screw it up, because it’s so longstanding and so beneficial to both sides.

What a load of absolute tosh.  For starters, President Donald Trump is a supporter of the Australian-American Alliance.  He has no intention of “screwing up” the relationship between the two nations.  In any event, why ask a Trump-hater like Comey what he thinks about the Australian American Alliance during the Trump administration?  Didn’t the 7.30 presenter take enough questions to Washington?


Last night’s Tonightly with Tom Ballard, on ABC Comedy, was back to its usual standard. The “F” word was dropped on no fewer than seven occasions.  Your man Ballard condemned Rugby Union player Israel Folau for alleged homophobia and there was a trans comedian who was warmly welcomed.  The compere spat out half a glass of beer to loud audience applause.  He also laughed loudly at his own jokes. The best moment came when Tom Ballard asked: “How long is this show?”  The answer is – too long.




The Hansard for the Senate Estimates Committee of 11 April 2018 has just been published.  It gives MWD a chance to update readers with details of the Jon Stephens case.

As MWD readers are aware, Jon Stephens pleaded guilty in Gosford Local District Court in June 2017 to the 1981 sexual assault of a 12 year old boy while on official duties as an ABC TV producer.  The boy was a child actor in an ABC production.

As documented in MWD Issue 397, the ABC first learnt of its very own case of child sexual assault in September 2016.  However, as ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie revealed in Senate Estimates on 11 April, the ABC’s general counsel did not write to the victim “informing him of the ongoing investigation and undertaking to keep him informed of progress” until the week commencing 9 April 2018 – a gap of over a year and a half.

Ms Guthrie also said that the ABC was still to interview Jon Stephens – despite the fact that he pleaded guilty to the child sexual assault (while on ABC duties) ten months ago.

The Jon Stephens case has not been reported by ABC (except once on one radio news bulletin) or Fairfax Media.  This compares to the extensive coverage by the ABC and Fairfax Media of child sexual assault in Christian institutions.



It would seem that even the house-comedians at the taxpayer funded public broadcaster have felt the need to come to their employer’s defence.

Here’s how Shaun (“Proudly a one-time school captain at Adelaide’s Sacred Heart College”) Micallef concluded ABC TV’s Mad As Hell last Wednesday:

Shaun Micallef: And finally, the Murdoch press, despite sounding like a wrestling hold, is like the Wurlitzer Opus – a powerful organ. And whenever I access that organ to read about how the ABC is hurting it digitally, I’ve noticed that the phrase that always precedes “ABC” is “tax-payer funded”.  And I think the ABC could appease a lot of its critics if it simply wasn’t taxpayer funded. And so, I propose that instead, the ABC be funded by those who don’t pay tax – like the companies here…[Nine companies were cited by their logos.]  So, just $100 million from each of these businesses is all we need to shake off the taxpayer-funded tag that’s annoying News Corp so much. Send your cheques personally to me, care of the address on your screen. Goodbye.

It seems that your man Micallef learnt all that he knows about tax from ABC economic correspondent Emma Alberici.  He does not seem to understand that company tax is levied on profits.

Moreover, if nine companies gave $100 million each to the ABC it would still amount to a 10 per cent cut to the taxpayer funded public broadcaster’s annual handout – which is over $1 billion.  At least Rupert Murdoch can read a balance-sheet.

[Perhaps this feature should have appeared in the hugely popular Can You Bear It? segment.  Just a thought. – MWD Editor.]


Can You Bear It


ABC Radio National Breakfast, presented by Fran Kelly, has five political commentators in the team – Michelle Grattan, Paul Bongiorno, Peter van Onselen, Phil (“I used to be a John Pilger fan boy”) Coorey and Alice Workman.  Not one conservative among this lot – fitting the profile of the ABC as a Conservative Free Zone without one conservative presenter, producer or editor for any of its prominent television, radio or online outlets.  Moreover, two out the five are leftists – to wit, Bonge and Buzzfeed’s Ms Workman.

Let’s go to the transcript where Fran (“I’m an activist”) Kelly talks to Paul (“I used to share digs with Gerald Ridsdale but I don’t mention it much”) Bongiorno talked about the debate on what should be Australia’s annual immigration  numbers, towards the end of the segment last Tuesday:

Fran Kelly: But there’s more and more people getting on to this notion of slowing down migration, maybe winding it back a bit to take the pressure off the roads and the rail links and the housing until more is built.

Paul Bongiorno: Well that’s right. I mean, there’s always tweaking out there. You know, whether it’s cut by 20,000, 30,000, or whatever. In a sense that shouldn’t be controversial. One thinks of what plays into that discussion is not so much infrastructure as racism as well and the fears that people have of foreigners.

So, there you have it.  According to your man Bongiorno, anyone who argues that the annual immigration should be cut by 20,000 or 30,000 from its current high level is motivated by racism and has a fear of foreigners.  This overlooks the fact that many Australians who favour a small reduction in the annual migration intake are of non-Anglo-Celtic/European background and have no evident fear of foreigners.  It seems these days that Bonge is into abuse, not argument.  But he is a leading commentator on ABC radio and television.  Can You Bear It?


Could this be the most advertised dinner in our life time?  It’s all but impossible to pick up a Fairfax Media newspaper these days without coming across a large advertisement for the Inaugural Walkley Fund for Journalism Dinner to be held on Friday 11 May 2018 at Doltone House on Hyde Park – capacity 500.

According to the advert, the event – to be hosted by Melissa Doyle (Seven) stars – Steve Pennells (Seven’s Sunday Night), Kate Geraghty (Fairfax Media), Ross Coulthart (Nine Network’s 60 Minutes) and Louise Milligan (ABC Four Corners). The moderator is Kerry O’Brien. Red Kerry is not given a designation – so MWD is happy to advise potential attendees that he is an ex-ABC star who once worked for the luvvies’ fave Gough Whitlam, although he tends not to mention this.

The cost of this journalism knees-up is a competitive $165 per person – which includes “a three-course meal and entertainment” but not, apparently, alcohol. There is also a “live auction”.  Yawn.  But at least this is preferable to the alternative for those taking part.

The constant advertising for this event which has been going on for weeks suggests that The Walkley Foundation is having lotsa trouble getting bums-on-seats to listen to the likes of Ms Milligan and Mr Coulthart tell their stories.   As avid readers are aware, Louise Milligan refused to answer Hendo’s eleven questions on her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell (MUP, 2017) and instead sought the protection of her publisher – the formidable Louise Adler. Also, as Paul Barry documented on the ABC TV Media Watch  program on 26 February 2018, your man Coulthart was conned into believing the views of fantasists concerning an alleged VIP pedophile ring in Britain.  In 2015 he called this “without question the biggest political scandal Britain has ever faced”.  But Mr Coulthart has gone under the bed on this one and declined to answer Paul Barry’s sixteen questions on this issue.

Hendo always likes to be helpful in such matters.  He reckons that the one way to get a decent audience to give up their Friday nights at home, go out and pay to listen to a bunch of self-important journos is to put on free grog.  The constant feature advertising for this function seems to indicate that there’s not much interest in such an occasion in its current pay-for-drinks format.  Also, it appears that Fairfax Media is providing free advertising to The Walkley Foundation – even though none of its stars are on the panel. Why? Can You Bear It?


While on the topic of large-sized advertisements in Fairfax Media newspapers, did anyone see The Australia Institute’s full page “Australia Needs More Tax – Not Less” advert in the Sydney Morning Herald last Tuesday?

It took the form of the clichéd open letter format, to wit “An Open Letter To Our Political Leaders”. The line was that Australia needs a stronger revenue base and for this we need “more tax, not less”.  The message was that Australia needs a stronger revenue base so Australian governments can spend more money.  The signatories oppose tax cuts which would enable Australians to spend their money as they deem appropriate.

How interesting that the overwhelming majority of the 50 or so signatures are current or former academics – who are in receipt of taxpayer subsidised salaries or superannuation.  There are also a few retired politicians, some trade union officials and a novelist who has benefited from government grants.  No mention was made in the advertisement of the fact that universities, trade unions, and organisations like The Australia Institute have tax exempt status.  Can You Bear It?


While on about tax exempt institutions, consider the views of former Fairfax Media journalist Tony Walker who, these days, is a Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow at La Trobe University and an Age columnist.

Last Monday your man Walker wrote a column headed “Lessons from the ‘Last Supper’”. It was all about a Liberal Party fund raising dinner held in Melbourne recently to which Mr Walker was not invited.   However, he managed to report about what had taken place at the event with the help of such sources as “a participant”, “a sampling of opinion among senior Liberals present at the fundraiser” and “another senior Liberal”. Well, thanks for that.

The La Trobe Vice-Chancellor’s Fellow went on to opine about Liberal Party founder Robert Menzies and had this to say:

Like elements of the Sermon on the Mount, these [Menzies] utterances have been subjected to various interpretations. Moderates claim his words as vindication of a “progressive” small “l” approach, conservatives argue that in office he ruled as a traditional largish “c” conservative.

Menzies may best be described as something in between, neither small “l”, nor largish “c”, rather a Menzian liberal who eschewed dogmas and labels to rule from what he perceived to be the centre in the service of the “unorganised majorities”, as conservative historian David Kemp puts it.

If he were alive today, Menzies would no doubt be alternatively appalled and puzzled by what has become of the party he created out of the ashes of the United Australia Party he led at the onset of World War II. Chances are he would have looked askance at the emergence of a more ideological Liberal Party under John Howard….

What a load of absolute tosh.  Robert Menzies died four decades ago.  All we really know about Sir Robert Menzies if he were alive today – is that he would be 123 years of age. By the way, thanks to your man Walker for the depiction of Menzies as a “Menzian liberal”. Not a “Churchillian liberal”, just a “Menzian liberal”. Fancy that.

All we do know about Robert Menzies in his final years is that he despised the small “l” Liberals like Bill Snedden and supported many of the views of the avowed anti-communist B.A. Santamaria.  No sign here that the Liberal Party founder would have “looked askance” at the likes of John Howard.  Mr Walker just made this up.

Tony Walker opened his column with the following thoughts, if thoughts they be:

Demonstrating that a maudlin sense of humour has not deserted a Liberal Party run ragged by internal dissent, a participant at last week’s invitation-only fundraising dinner on Melbourne’s Southbank refers to the event as the “Last Supper”.

And he concluded it with this New Testament reference:

In light of the opening paragraph in this column, the question could be asked: who might emerge as the Judas in a dysfunctional Liberal leadership – or the Peter? What would seem to be required is a Peter, figuratively speaking, to salve wounds. In this, we are not talking about Peter Dutton.

Well, such a question can be asked. But it’s a pretty silly query – outside of La Trobe University.   The apostle Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver. As for Peter – well, he became the founder of the Catholic Church.  To Jackie’s (male) co-owner, there is no relationship between this position and that of the leader of the Liberal Party.  And as to “salve wounds” – Can You Bear It?




Alas. When reference is constantly made to the (alleged) ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – few overlook the rampant march of the cliché through the English language.

Take verbal interaction, for example.  Once upon a time, people had discussions and debates.  Now they have conversations – or what is increasingly called THE CONVERSATION. Members of the intelligentsia are increasingly telling us that it’s time we had THE CONVERSATION – on this and that but not on the other thing.  For example, no leftie luvvie ever calls for a conversation on the need to restore capital punishment or critique homophobia within Islam.  But the sandal-wearers in our midst call incessantly for a conversation about their latest trendy cause. Like euthanasia, for example.

Take the appearance of Benjamin Law on ABC TV’s The Drum last Wednesday.  Your man Law moved from banging the drum on his LGBTI causes to discussing what is called assisted dying.  It turns out that Australia’s very own Dr Philip Nitschke has invented or endorsed some brand new you-beaut euthanasia machine which potential customers can purchase provided they pass a simple online test concerning their mental health.  The death producing machine can be produced – by 3D printing – at home. Convenient, eh?

Benjamin Law concluded his contribution to the discourse on The Drum by calling for a CONVERSATION on this issue on three occasions in a mere five sentences – as the transcript demonstrates.

This isn’t a conversation we’re having in isolation either, you know. Australia’s not the only country that’s discussing this and it’s not the only country that’s, you know, seeking to actually go that next step. And we need to start a more global conversation about other countries who have attempted or have actually taken that next step. What have they gotten right and what have they gotten wrong? We don’t need to have this conversation just by ourselves.

Translated, Law is maintaining that we should talk more about euthanasia. He seems to believe that the use of the word “conversation” in this context lends authority to his position. It doesn’t. It’s just a cliché.

MWD plans a crowd-sourcing campaign to send Benjamin Law a dictionary to encourage him to use such words as discussion, debate, argument, consultation, talk, dialogue, exchange – and give conversation a break.



Last week’s Outsiders program, the 9 am edition, commenced with the familiar part by Ross (“I’m a Marcus Aurelius fan boy”) Cameron. It was, GROAN, yet another rant on the Allies (alleged) suppression of Russia and Syria.  Let’s go to the transcript:

Ross Cameron: Well I just wanna say to uh Donald Trump, Theresa May, uh Emmanuel Macron, uh Marise Payne – uh well done. We haven’t started World War 3. Uh, it’s a good start, uh good way to begin the and we drop those bombs.

Rowan Dean: Yep. You beauty.

Ross Cameron: We have dropped just over 100 bombs –

Rowan Dean: All in a morning’s work.

Ross Cameron: – on an allegedly sovereign state, uh, called Syria. Um and whilst everyone seems to be uh, you know, uh, everyone in the know, seems to be pretty excited about it – all those who have been the most rabid critics of Donald Trump are loving it. The world is sort of turned upside down for me because someone who loved and supported Donald Trump from the first day, this has been, uh, my second really disappointing moment in the presidency. I see a little mate, you know David Spears on the previous show breezily says “oh this is the 40th time the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons”. Well, I’m just saying, for the benefit of the outsiders, for differences of opinion –

Rowan Dean: Absolutely.

Ross Cameron: – um, I’m not happy about it. And the reason I say so is because we have to decide whether we believe in rules-based international law or whether it’s just whoever is the most powerful runs the joint. I’m kind of happy either way but I just never ever want to hear Julie Bishop get up again and say Australia supports a rules-based engagement in international law when effectively three countries can determine) that a chemical weapons attack took place in Syria – uh, I’m not satisfied that a chemical weapons attack took place in the fog of war, indeed, in the fog of war. It is quite possible in this case the chemicals, alleged to be chlorine. Okay, which means that there are 10, 000 homes on the Upper North Shore of Sydney who in the garage have got a 20 gallon, 20 litre drum of chlorine which apparently is a chemical weapon. And if there is a fire in that garage, then it was a chemical weapons’ attack, presumably by Syria….

Cameron The Garrulous – who know reckons that Syria would be blamed for a garage fire on Sydney’s North Shore – went on and on and on. Garrulously.  This is how the Cameron Rant concluded:

Ross Cameron: Now, I’m just gonna say too that in my opinion, these 100 bombs had absolutely nothing to do with Syria and they had nothing to do with chemical weapons. They had to do with two leaders of two allegedly conservative parties. Theresa May in the UK, Donald Trump in the US, who needed to rebuild their domestic support base.  Donald Trump from just persistent unrelenting allegations that he is a Kremlin agent because he prefers to normalise relations with Vladimir Putin. And Theresa May because she’s generally bloody hopeless, needs any help she can get.

Uh, I’m gonna say that um, I wanna see less bombs, uh, getting dropped. If we’re going to drop them I wanna see very, very solid evidence. If we’re going to maintain we believe in international law and a rules-based regime, we should observe it instead of behaving like a bunch of cowboys and an outlaw biker gang. There you go Rowan.

Yes. There you go. And there he went. Thank God Outsiders co-presenter Rowan Dean, did not agree with the Cameron Rant.  Last time round the Marcus Aurelius fan boy was backing Vladimir Putin.  Last Sunday Ross Cameron was backing Bashir al Assad.  Next Sunday – why not Raul Castro? We’ll keep you posted.



Meanwhile the good news is that the Outsiders newsreader – the witty Jaynie Seal – took up MWD’s suggestion that she read Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein’s 1953 tome Philosophical Imagination.  Let’s go to the Outsiders segment last Sunday where once again there was a discussion about a book nobody had read.

Rowan Dean: So I’ve just been wondering – what’s been keeping you tossing and turning at nights in this humid weather?

Jaynie Seal: What’s been keeping me tossing and turning at night? Well, I’ll tell you what –  Ludwig Wittgenstein’s 1953 masterpiece. I’m not sure if you’re fully aware of it. It’s been keeping me pretty busy. In particular, the philosophical investigations that he has been discussing – particularly the red five apples. I wonder if you’ve got a take on that?

Rowan Dean: Well, I think he did borrow his five red apples heavily from Marcus Aurelius, which is probably why he didn’t credit him at all. But I’m glad you’re enjoying the book. And keep reading, Jaynie, because it’s a good insight for us to know what’s on your bedside table – particularly during the warmer weather.

Jackie’s (male) co-owner is too much a gentleman to speculate on the contents of Ms Seal’s bedside table.  But he does suggest that she moves into, say, Rene Descartes’ Principles of Philosophy in the original 1644 Latin edition.  Here’s hoping for a discussion on this Outsiders’ bedside reading material next Sunday.



As avid readers are aware, John Edwards’ book John Curtin’s War: Volume 1  was launched by former Labor party prime minister Paul Keating at the Lowy Institute on 27 November 2017. Dr Edwards said little of substance at the launch apart from mentioning that his name could not be found on the front cover, or even the back cover, of John Curtin’s War.  However, Paul Keating received considerable media coverage for his assertion – based on John Edwards’ book – that Robert Menzies (when United Australia Party prime minister in the early years of the Second World War) was a coward who was happy to surrender to the Japanese in the event of hostilities.

Paul Keating fired up his attack on Robert Menzies based on Chapter 14 of John Curtin’s War entitled “Australia Defenceless”.  Dr Edwards used an extract from the report of a meeting held in the War Cabinet room in Melbourne on 12 June 1940 which was presided over by Prime Minister Menzies and attended by Sir Brudenell White, Fred Shedden, Sir Charles Jess, Essington Lewis and J.B. Brigden and Sir Keith Murdoch.  The recommendation of the meeting was subsequently accepted by the War Cabinet when it met in Melbourne on 22 June 1940.

Edwards’ interpretation of these meetings was that a Japanese invasion of Australia would be unnecessary because Australia would come to terms with an expansionist Japan.  John Edwards described the policy of the Menzies government as “surrender”.  He suggested, without a shred of evidence, that Menzies “surely did not tell him [Curtin] of this bleak assessment”.  The fact is that, when prime minister, Menzies constantly kept Curtin informed on national security matters – even to the extent of inviting Labor to form a national government for the duration of hostilities.  In short, Edwards has no evidence to support his view that Menzies did not advise Curtin of the decisions made at these meetings.

The Edwards/Keating thesis – that Menzies was into surrender while Curtin wanted to thwart the Japanese – is completely discredited by the evidence in Edward’s own book.  Those who have read John Curtin’s War: Volume 1  from cover to cover will know that John Curtin was an appeaser, who did not want to increase spending on defence and who approached the Japanese with a view to Australia reaching a special peace deal with Japan in the event of hostilities.  It’s just that neither Dr Edwards nor Mr Keating were prepared to talk about the real John Curtin at the launch of John Curtin’s War: Volume 1.




Page 101 of John Edwards’ book: As left-wing member Maurice Blackburn said, the big difference between Labor and the anti-Labor parties was that the anti-Labor parties wanted defence as part of Imperial defence and Labor wanted it to be independent and self-reliant. It was also the difference between Curtin and Menzies. What Blackburn did not say was that after the split during the Great War, Labor was opposed not only to the Singapore strategy, Imperial defence and collective security with the League but also to conscription, and the sharply higher defence spending that would be necessary for Australia to maintain a useful professional army, air force or navy. In 1935 Curtin’s party favoured self-reliance, but not the means to attain it.

Page 115 of John Edwards’ book: Opposing involvement in European conflicts but recognising increasing threats, Curtin emphasised the defence of Australia. At the 1936 Federal Conference the party platform sought “adequate home defence against possible aggression”. Responding to the Lyons Government argument that Australia must support the Empire, which would in turn support Australia, Curtin argued for a more independent defence policy. He wanted more weapons made in Australia, and a bigger air force. Logically, self-defence would require a much bigger army, and perhaps conscription to maintain it. Curtin wasn’t calling for either.

Page 124 of John Edwards’ book: It was a pertinent and far-sighted speech. It foreshadowed Japan’s strategy in 1941, and its consequences. But it was also true that, obedient to the party platform, Curtin opposed the reintroduction of compulsory military training, and complained of additional defence spending. He was unwilling to propose the spending necessary to create the vastly expanded land and air forces on which Australia should rely. Newly elected to the leadership of his party, he had embraced the right theory but was stuck with the wrong practice.

Page 134 of John Edwards’ book: Curtin did not join a debate about appeasement, and found himself in a sunnier spot than [Joseph] Lyons. Responding to Lyons, he complained of the “staggering increase” in defence spending foreshadowed by the Prime Minister. After all, “all the evidence on central Europe suggests that tension is far less grievous than it was”. Was this therefore a time when Australia should be “embarking on a stupendous burden for national defence?” Curtin was not an appeaser. In common with most of his colleagues, he wanted no Australian involvement in Europe at all. He most particularly wanted to keep his party united — even at the cost of a gaping contradiction between the defence self-reliance he advocated, and his opposition to the means to attain it.

[MWD Editor’s Note:  John Curtin’s War does not make any reference whatsoever to Mr Curtin’s speech in the House of Representatives on 9 May 1939.  In it he claimed that the “partisan activities of those who are more concerned…with fighting Hitler than with establishing peace” had upset “efforts of the British government [led by Neville Chamberlain] in negotiations for peace”. John Edwards should have been aware of John Curtin’s appeasement advocacy in May 1939 since he cites Anne Henderson’s book Menzies at War which quotes John Curtin’s May 1939 speech. John Edwards is clearly in denial about the fact that John Curtin – like Joseph Lyons and Robert Menzies – was an appeaser in the first half of 1939.]

Page 156 of John Edwards’ book: On 10 September, Curtin reiterated Labor’s opposition to sending troops overseas. He went further on 22 October, promising to “strenuously challenge” the reintroduction of compulsory military training. In moving his party to recognise the threats to Australia, in reconciling his own warnings about Japan with his refusal to accept conscription even for the defence of Australia, Curtin had a very long way to go.

Page 172 of John Edwards’ book: Britain was threatened with invasion and would require all the power of its fleet to deter it. Italy was now in the war and deployed a formidable fleet in the Mediterranean. The strategic problems of the Pacific both Britain and Australia had evaded for so long could no longer be ignored. Nor could Curtin continue to ignore the contradiction in Labor’s position — warning of war in the Pacific, while opposing conscription for home defence.

Page 184 of John Edwards’ book: With a general election expected sometime in 1940, Curtin needed to adjust his position on the war to better accord with Britain’s danger, and the possibility that Japan would seize the moment to attack British interests in the east. Led by Curtin, a special federal conference of the ALP in Melbourne on 18 and 19 June 1940 committed the party to winning the war. Dropping the isolationist planks in the platform that would impede it in the next general election, it also approved conscription for home defence. The AIF overseas would be supported, and kept up to strength.

Page 192 of John Edwards’ book: He [John Curtin] gave far more prominence to the threat of Japan and to the poor state of Australia’s capacity to meet the threat, but otherwise Curtin went to the [1940] election with few differences with Menzies on the war.

[MWD Editor’s Note.  John Curtin became prime minister of Australia on 7 October 1941 after two Independents crossed the floor and supported Labor.]

Page 311 of John Edwards’ book: There was plenty of discussion of the threat from Japan, but in Curtin’s first two months in office there had been only a few steps to increase Australia’s capacity to meet an attack. Curtin had begun to remove obstructions to war production. He pressed for bigger British navy battleships for the Indian Ocean, there were negotiations over Australian naval vessels expected to be returned to Australian waters if Japan entered the war, and there was the cooperation with the United States in building up Rabaul as a naval base and Australian airstrips as part of the Philippines supply route.

The defence of Australia against a possible invasion was not a top priority. Australia continued to supply aircrew for training in Canada and posting to Britain, and its ships continued to be under Admiralty command and part of the British navy. The AIF in the Middle East was reinforced as necessary. War Cabinet pressed for more and faster aircraft production, but many of the planes were intended for Britain.

Page 312 of John Edwards’ book: Whatever he said publicly at this time, whatever he had said when in Opposition, the actions of Curtin and his government in the first two months of office suggest that he relied on the promised British navy Indian Ocean task force, on a quite false British assessment of the capabilities of the Japanese navy, army and air forces, and on the hope that war in the Pacific against Japan either wouldn’t happen or would bring in the United States if it did. It had been much the same for Menzies and Fadden. Though he had for years warned of a Pacific war, Curtin did not prepare for one with much greater urgency than Fadden or Menzies.

Page 312-313 of John Edwards’ book: As late as 4 December, Curtin asked at a War Cabinet meeting in Melbourne for a review of the strength and organisation of the three services “to meet the probable forms of attack on Australia”, bearing in mind, that the “primary requirement is to prevent an enemy landing on these shores”. The review should particularly consider “the possibility of reducing the establishment of the Military Forces by, say, 20 000 to 30 000 men to enable additional manpower to be made available for the Navy and Air Force and for munitions production.”  The War Cabinet decision reflected the views of Shedden, but it is difficult to reconstruct the reasoning behind a preference, with war imminent, to reduce the size of the Australian army. Australia lacked ships and planes, but not crews. In the War Council, Curtin had earlier discussed reducing the size of the Militia. In due course, Fadden would put the discussion to good political use.

Page 368 of John Edwards’ book: Curtin warned Australia that Japan could invade. The military chiefs agreed. For all that, Curtin and his military chiefs did not act as if invasion was imminent. There were air raid trenches dug around Parliament House and in Melbourne parks. Some civilians stocked up on canned food. Road signs would be removed and blackouts imposed. Australians were not otherwise acting as people about to be invaded.

Page 453 of John Edwards’ book: After a three-hour debate between the army and the navy at a 4 March conference in Tokyo, an invasion of Australia was postponed indefinitely, a decision shortly to be ratified by the Emperor.


This overwhelmingly popular segment of Media Watch Dog usually works like this. Someone or other thinks it would be a you-beaut idea to write to Gerard Henderson about something or other. And Hendo, being a courteous and well-brought up kind of guy, replies. Then, hey presto, the correspondence is published in MWD – much to the delight of its avid readers.

There are occasions, however, when Nancy’s (male) co-owner decides to write a polite note to someone or other – who, in turn, believes that a reply is in order. Publication in MWD invariably follows. There are, alas, some occasions where Hendo sends a polite missive but does not receive the courtesy of a reply. Nevertheless, publication of this one-sided correspondence still takes place. For the record – and in the public interest, of course.

As MWD readers are aware, The Guardian Australia’s deputy editor Katharine Murphy put out the following tweet on 6 June 2014 at 4.33 pm – when that issue of MWD was “hot off the press”. Here is Ms Murphy’s tweet: “Without in any way wanting to breach anyone’s human rights or free speech – why do people write emails to Gerard Henderson?” It’s a very good question. Thankfully, not everyone follows Katharine Murphy’s wise counsel – not even Ms Murphy herself (See MWD Issue 297).


As avid readers are aware, MWD Issues 400 and 401 carried a photo of Belinda Wallington, Louise Milligan and former Democrats senator Lyn Allison outside the ABC’s Melbourne studio on 17 May 2017 – either before or after The Conversation Hour on ABC Radio 774.  Issue 401 carried a comment by ABC media manager Sally Jackson that Louise Milligan told her she has “no recollection” that her book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell had been discussed around the time the photograph was taken.

As promised, MWD is keeping readers aware of developments.  After reading last week’s MWD, Sharon Rainsbury wrote to Gerard Henderson on behalf of the Victorian Magistrates’ Court and Magistrate Belinda Wallington.  Ms Rainsbury’s letter is published below in full.  Alas, Ms Rainsbury did not respond to Gerard Henderson’s questions concerning Ms Wallington.  If a reply is received, it will be published next week. Now read on:


Sharon Rainsbury to Gerard Henderson – 16 April 2018

Dear Mr Henderson,

I write in regard to your Media Watch Dog blog, Issue 401, in which you referenced the Herald Sun’s “Page 13” column from Saturday 7 April.

The following statement was provided to reporter Padraic Murphy at the Herald Sun from Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen. The comment was incorrectly attributed to me in the first edition of the paper and the initial online story. It was corrected by 8.30pm.

In relation to your question posed to Louise Milligan and the ABC about whether she discussed her book or the Cardinal with Magistrate Wallington, I am advised by Ms Wallington that the answer is an unequivocal NO.

Kind regards,

Sharon Rainsbury


Magistrates Belinda Wallington and Pauline Spencer were invited on The Conversation Hour on 15 May last year to discuss Law Week events.  The program was divided into two segments – the first included an interview with Ms Milligan and the second was the interview with the magistrates.

As Jon Faine explained when introducing them, their appearance had “nothing to do” with his previous discussion with Ms Milligan.

Ms Wallington informed the prosecution and defence about the segment and photo at a special mention early in the proceedings and asked if either was of the view that she should disqualify herself. The parties answered in the negative.


Gerard Henderson to Sharon Rainsbury – 17 April 2018

Dear Ms Rainsbury

I refer to your email of last Monday concerning the Correspondence segment in my Media Watch Dog blog Issue 401.

I note that a comment given to the Herald Sun by Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen was attributed incorrectly to you in an early edition of the paper. MWD is always willing to make corrections – and I will correct this next Friday.

I also note that Magistrate Belinda Wallington’s answer to my question to Louise Milligan – as to whether she engaged in “any conversation with Ms Wallington about the book Cardinal when they met at the ABC on 15 May 2017” – is “an unequivocal NO”. As you will be aware, Louise Milligan said – through the ABC’s Sally Jackson – that she had “no recollection” of any such discussion. I will report Magistrate Wallington’s comment in MWD Issue 402.

I was interested in the statement issued by Chief Magistrate Peter Lauritsen to the Herald Sun – which you forwarded to me. I would be grateful if you could answer the following questions with respect to Mr Lauritsen’s statement and matters pertaining to it of media interest. My questions are as follows:

  1. In his statement, Mr Lauritsen said that “Magistrates Belinda Wallington and Pauline Spencer were invited on The Conversation Hour on 15 May last year to discuss Law Week events”. However, in introducing the segment on The Conversation Hour on 15 May 2017, Jon Faine had this to say: “Two magistrates have volunteered to come into The Conversation Hourtoday – I’m not quite sure why”.

To clarify. Were magistrates Wallington and Spencer invited to appear on The Conversation Hour? Or did they volunteer to go on the program?

  1.  When magistrates Wallington and Spencer agreed to go on The Conversation Hour – either following an invitation or after volunteering to appear – were they aware that Louise Milligan would be interviewed by Jon Faine before them? Was this the only day in Law Week 2017 on which they were able to talk on The Conversation Hour?


  1. Was the photo of Louise Milligan along with Ms Wallington, Ms Spencer and Lyn Allison taken before or after The Conversation Hourwent to air?


  1. As Mr Lauritsen has pointed out, when introducing the magistrates Jon Faine said that their appearance had “nothing to do” with his previous discussion with Ms Milligan about Cardinal George Pell. However, Ms Wallington introduced Cardinal Pell – whom she referred to as “George Pell” – in a discussion where she described complainants giving evidence in an ongoing child sexual abuse cases before Victorian courts as “victims” with respect to the accused. The transcript is as follows:

Belinda Wallington: But we’re now realising – perhaps a little belatedly, and no more so than in the sex offence area – that a fair trial means fairness to both sides. And in the past there have been piecemeal attempts to change things and make things better for victims, for many, many years, but over the last 10 years, there have been heaps of reforms and they’re ongoing. I can’t talk about George Pell, of course, but –

Jon Faine: No, we’re not asking you to.

Belinda Wallington: Thank you. I can say that the Royal Commission will say some interesting things, not just about organisations, but about courts.

Why did Ms. Wallington feel the need to tell listeners of ABC Radio 774 that she could not talk about George Pell in view of the fact that Jon Faine had not asked her to do so?


In conclusion, I acknowledge that Ms Wallington informed the prosecution and the defence about The Conversation Hour segment and the photo at a special mention early in the proceedings – and that both parties advised that they were not of the view that she should disqualify herself in the Cardinal Pell committal hearing. However, as far as I am aware, this was not reported in the media at the time (but I stand to be corrected on this point).

Yours sincerely

Gerard Henderson


That’s Louise Milligan in the middle, Magistrate Belinda Wallington on the left and Lyn Allison on the right. The photo was taken outside the ABC’s Southbank studio in Melbourne.


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Until next time.

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